We cannot stop the pain, the tragedy, or, for that matter, the discomfort that comes with being alive. No matter what we do, we cannot get control of the life we do not wish to experience. That is, we cannot stop that which dashes dreams and steals contentment. And we cannot experience enough dream fulfillment or contentment to escape the predictably unpredictable experience of pain and loss.
The physiological response of not having control is anxiety, and it is a normal response to living in this life. The physiological response of experiencing the futility of trying to attain control is depression; it, too, is a normal response to living in this life.
Anxiety and depression show that we are not in denial; we are reacting to life on life’s terms.
The body-brain connection identifies very real possibilities of pain and loss, thus the anticipation of more danger (anxiety), and the anticipation of more loss (depression).
However, when anxiety and depression become detached from our emotional brain, or the heart, we become separated from the emotional benefit of anxiety and depression. They not only tell us about experiences of external reality. They also point us towards our internal emotional experience. They are like messengers telling us to be aware of our feelings in the midst of reality. They point us towards the process of remaining fully involved in our own lives, even though life is painful. That is, they point us towards remaining in the present, with others who know us, as we move towards the future.
Reality is scary, and angering, and sad, and often lonely and hurtful and shameful. And these emotional experiences are emotional truths about ourselves that anxiety and depression are symptomatically communicating.
When life happens differently than the dream of painlessness and delight, we have heartache. Heartache is the emotional response to a life that is predictably unpredictable. Heartache is the call to face and feel with the truth of our own hearts the experience of living in a heartbreaking place. Feelings are the tools we have been given to reach out to others and God who know that life can be difficult and tragic; feelings help us stay vitally connected, especially when we risk the anxiety-provoking and depression-oriented possibilities of caring and loving.
Feelings bond us together and allow us to share hope, creativity, help, and courage in a place we cannot control. They reduce the power of anxiety and depression to control our lives instead of being messengers of warning about harsh reality. Anxiety is normal, and it tells us to share our deeper emotional struggle; depression is normal, and it tells us to share our deeper emotional struggle.